An interview with Mayor Lianne Dalziel

Interview By Michael Freeman and Charlotte Hawkins 

When you first came to Christchurch, did you feel informed? We don’t just mean where the nearest liquor store was, or what bars did karaoke on a Wednesday night – this is important to know, it’s The Craic. Christchurch has more to it than being just a place to study. What opportunities are there? Who is in charge? What better way to learn about a city than to talk to the boss? Michael Freeman and Charlotte Hawkins sat down with Mayor Lianne Dalziel and asked her about what Christchurch can do for you, and what you can do for the city.  

Dalziel went to UC. Most of her memories include spending lots of time in the cafés (she does really like coffee). However, one not so fond but interesting memory she has is watching an event called the chunder mile. Which was where contestants would run around a track while drinking warm beer and eating cold pies, while doing an obstacle course, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see why it was called the chunder mile.  

Before becoming mayor, Dalziel was a Cabinet Minister and the Labour MP for Christchurch Central, and Christchurch East. Before politics, she was a union organiser, getting involved while working at a hospital during her time at Law School. Just prior to the 1990 election there was a leadership change in the Labour party with the Prime Minister, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, deciding not to run again. Last-minute, Dalziel was selected as Christchurch Central’s candidate, running a blitz campaign for about five weeks and elected under FPP. She remained in politics until she ran for the mayoralty.  

Beyond politics, what better to get to know someone than from their go-to fish and chip shop order.  

“Well, I’m trying not to eat fish and chips, I prefer Thai takeaways,” Dalziel said. 

The mayor, however, does drink a lot of coffee. Living in the CBD, she says you can’t really go wrong; there are heaps of great cafés in the CBD that she frequents on a weekly basis and feels that “it’s an awesome place to live especially for a coffee drinker!”. A couple to try: Fiddlesticks or Caffeine laboratory.  

Dalziel believes the opportunity for employment is growing in the city. Christchurch is a still rebuilding city as this year we mark 10 years since the devastating earthquakes. This leaves room for lots of innovation in the city according to Dalziel, and with companies and firms having overseas ties Christchurch there are great opportunities above and beyond those in other cities in NZ, with the added benefit of much less traffic.  

This drive towards innovation leads to more diverse industry opportunities, and when asked what is up-and-coming in Christchurch that would be relevant for graduates, she had some surprising responses. Aerospace is the big one apparently, and it does make sense considering Christchurch is one of the five international gateways to Antarctica, hence UC’s Antarctic emphasis. Technology is also the direction of major industries in Christchurch with Dalziel naming the future of transport, health technology, food fibre, and agriculture technology as growth sectors. These play on the regional strengths of Canterbury while also helping to create solutions for global issues. So, don’t rule Christchurch out just yet when thinking of where to work after you finish studying. 

And Dalziel’s last word? “‘I’ve said this more than once that it [Christchurch] is on the cusp of something” – so stick around, get involved, and don’t forget to vote in the next local election!